Thursday, November 06, 2008

Readjusting my perspective

It was windy and rainy when I went outside to my car this morning, so windy that even my strong umbrella was having trouble keeping its shape. As I got to the car, my next-door neighbour lady passed by and asked where I was heading.

"To the mall," I answered.

"Well that's too bad. I'm headed the opposite way. Well, I'd better walk to the bus then." She looked soaked already, and as she walked down the road I remembered how her strength's not always so good since her last bout of leukemia. And so I got in the car and drove beside her, offering her a ride. It wouldn't be far and I had lots of time this morning.

As I drove, we talked. She and I talk maybe once a year, but she's the sort of talker that doesn't remain at small talk for long. She told me about their tenant they have in their basement suite, the one that lives in a similar suite to ours and who could look right into our dining room window until my landlords and neighbours built a higher fence.

For a long time, I thought their tenant didn't like me. When we first moved here, I tried to greet her and she didn't respond. When I was working in the kitchen, I would look out the dining room window and see her staring at me as she walked past. I would become immediately aware of the mess around me. I was convinced of this until Chris mentioned last winter that, after we got back from Christmas vacation, she had spoken to him. She hadn't seen us in a few weeks, and our lights were never on, and had been worried that something had happened to us. She was relieved to hear that we had just been on vacation.

Just this last week she spoke to me for the first time. We passed each other at our gates, just as she was leaving for the bus and I was getting back from dropping off Chris. She greeted me gladly, her voice beautiful and full of joy. I was so glad.

And then this morning, I gave her landlady a ride, and her landlady told me more about this mysterious woman (whose name I still don't know). My neighbour and I had been talking about how George and Joyce keep our rent low so that we don't move away, and she responded saying, "I don't know what we'll do in the future. We keep her rent quite low, you know, because her life's so hard, and she's supporting her whole family in Kenya. She's been with us for three or four years, and we've just been absorbing the extra cost."

It's strange to think that I'd always interpreted her initial suspicion as being because I was some kind of unwelcome newcomer. And here she was, having barely moved here from Kenya just before we got here, and barely keeping things together herself.

I need to get to know all my neighbours better. My first step should be introducing myself to her.

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